Firstly, a confession… When I was working as a teacher and then in-house for a publisher, I was largely oblivious to the AMAZING information-sharing, networking and opportunities for research offered by the ELT community on Twitter and Facebook. I don’t mean the promotional stuff – I knew about that, of course – I mean the teachers who take it upon themselves to use social media to develop their own personal learning network (PLN), who share their ideas and best practice, and befriend strangers in order to talk about English language teaching in their free time. It was only when working freelance that I plunged into Twitter, and I’m now so completely converted that I’m going to use this blog to evangelise about everything I was missing out on before.
This post will give you some starting points which I hope you’ll find helpful if you’re new to Twitter or just weighing up its benefits.
Getting started on Twitter
(Skip this bit if you’re already there!)
Knowing where to get started can feel quite overwhelming. It can take time to build up a useful network (more on that later). But first, set up a profile here. Completing the “About You” section allows people interested in the same things to find you. Including a photo is important, too. (After all, who wants to have a chat with the default Twitter egg picture?) You can read more tips for getting started here.
If you’re not convinced yet of the benefits of Twitter for teachers, the many quotes here might change your mind.
And if this post does end up inspiring you to join the ELT Twitter community for the first time, or to go from lurking to participating, then send me a tweet to say hi! (Lurking is fine, too, of course. You can learn lots from lurking.)
Lists allow you to organise your twitter connections into groups. Doing this makes the bombardment of information and opinions more manageable, and has greatly improved the whole Twitter experience for me. You can create lists through your profile page. Lists can be public or private. You can take a look at my ELT lists here (and you are very welcome to plunder them for contacts, which might save you a bit of time-consuming legwork).
Twitter hashtags and participating in Twitter chats
Hashtags are just a way of tagging tweets so people can find them more easily. Chats are online get-togethers which use hashtags so others can see what’s being said. If you want to participate in a chat, just make sure you’re logged in at the scheduled time, and search for the hashtag. Don’t forget to include the hashtag in your own replies (so that people can see them). Chats usually revolve around a set topic, and involve discussion around pre-designated questions. Chats are often summarised afterwards so you can catch up if you miss them. Here are some that I’ve found useful (and I’m sure there are plenty more to explore).
#ELTchat is held every Wednesday (though, as is the case with all of these, you can read the tweets anytime).
#eltchinwag is a bi-weekly Twitter chat on Mondays moderated and run by ELT Ireland.
If you’re into young learners, like me, then check out the new
#EFLYLchat, which is already bursting with fun ideas. The chat is held on Tuesdays. Topics so far have included favourite games for young learners and favourite listening activities. IATEFL young learners SIG are also getting in on the act, with twitter chats starting in July at #iateflylt. Definitely worth watching out for.
One particularly useful function of hashtags is to bring together all the tweets from a conference, so whether you are participating as a delegate or having a quick nosy from the comfort of your sofa, you’ve a way of seeing what is being talked about. See #IATEFL17 and #TESOL17 for starters.
More general education hashtags which are useful to keep an eye on include: #edtech #edchat #ukedchat
For fun, you can also admire the boardwork on display at #ELTwhiteboard.
There are ideas worth stealing from other language teachers over at #mfltwitterati, too.
Freelance ELT editors can find useful info tagged #FreeELT.
I’d love to hear about your recommendations for using social media for ELT professional development. Please do share any recommendations in the comments.